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Explaining the Value of Analyst Relations to Salespeople (Part 1)

Industry analysts play a critical role in the sales cycle.  From their unique vantage point, sitting between vendors and end user organizations, they foster an important dialogue between the vendor’s lofty vision for the market and actual user needs on the ground.  Their influence in helping buyers short-list vendors according to product requirements should not be underestimated.  While industry analysts will never blatantly endorse one vendor’s product over another, they can validate the choice of a particular vendor for a specific application or scenario when advising their clientele.

What does sales enablement through AR programs look like?

The real power of effective Analyst Relations comes from maintaining and actively employing analyst references for the sales field to employ with any and all prospects to speed the sales cycle. Salespeople should get in the habit of passing along to PR or Marketing the names of any current favorable analysts by whom their prospects are being advised. AR people should package and make available to Sales any supportive quotes from analysts from published reports or media coverage on the market. (Note: distribution rules of most analyst firms forbid vendors from emailing whole reports to prospects.) Finally, after sale win/loss analysis should be used to determine which analysts advised which deals, favorably or negatively. The total value of closed business can be used as a metric to determine the ROI of AR program spend.

How hard is it to get industry analysts to write something?

Here’s the dirty secret. Most research notes published by analysts and posted in their online libraries are marketing and promotional tools. The “magic quadrant” report issued in every tech segment by You-Know-Who is essentially the best piece of marketing collateral ever created in our industry. Notes and reports are simply the most efficient way to disseminate the analyst firm’s “party line” to as many clients as possible, all at once.  Salespeople, especially at vendor startups, need to understand that industry analysts hardly ever write about a single product or a single vendor, except for the very largest tech firms (i.e. major platform vendors with lots of users).  Here’s what your AR pro doesn’t want you to know: every vendor is hard-pressed to convince analysts that they are a Leader in Anything, never mind actually publishing that opinion.

So when do industry analysts recommend one vendor over another?

Analysts (at least the good and honest ones) do try to value and protect their objectivity when it comes to assessing and recommending vendor alternatives. Analyst objectivity dictates that any one vendor be recommended only after a thorough assessment of their client’s unique situation.  Client engagements start with the organization’s solution requirements and project strategy. I once had a Gartner analyst in the BI market confess to me that he spent the majority of his time and effort fighting internal politics, helping his clients get out of their own way! Then and only then will some analysts advise on the vendor selection process by top-listing products. Even then, analysts will generally be egalitarian and parse their comments as “Vendor A does this well but Vendor B does that well”.

Your company’s AR programs should be robust and their communication consistent. An analyst relations pro’s job is to make sure that you as a vendor are known and get adequate credit for the things your product or service does well. Only then can salespeople be reasonably assured that target analysts in your space will give your market position credit where it is due. The net result: the relative probability and frequency of analyst recommendations of your offerings will rise – in precisely targeted, well-qualified scenarios, that is.

To be continued…

 

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